Lest We Forget
Deaglán de Bréadún
Before they disappear under the receding wave of time, here are some impressions of the recent elections. In the course of the campaign, some people complained they were boring but the present writer didn’t find that to be the case.
In happier times . . . or maybe not: Gerry Adams (left) and Christy Burke
(Photograph by Matt Kavanagh)
The carry-on over Fine Gael and Sinn Féin was “a bit of craic”. Frank Flannery dropped a heavy hint to his party’s supporters that it was ok now to transfer to the “Shinners”. It apparently went down like the proverbial lead balloon with the core-vote Blueshirts.
As the Americans say, “I don’t have a dog in this fight” but I can’t help noticing that we expect the unionists up North to share power with these people, so what’s the big deal south of the Border?
Many members of the unionist community actually died at the hands of the Provisional IRA, yet the DUP and UUP are called bigots if they don’t go into government with the political wing of the Provos. Can someone out there explain why it is different down here?
And in what way were Clann na Poblachta, led by former IRA chief of staff Seán MacBride, more acceptable as coalition partners back in 1948, not to mention Democratic Left in 1994, even though members of the latter had been fairly recently linked with the Official republican movement?
It wasn’t a great election for Sinn Féin. Mary Lou McDonald lost her European seat in Dublin and the promising Pádraig Mac Lochlainn was blown out of the water by Pat “the Cope” Gallagher in North-West. Now comes the resignation of party stalwart, the popular Christy Burke, who ran in the Dublin Central byelection. In Dublin, Joe Higgins, despite his Marxist beliefs, was considered a more palatable alternative to Fianna Fáil than Mary Lou.
The whole issue of Ms McDonald’s attendance record was woefully mishandled as was the question of whether or not she would seek a Dáil seat in the next general election. Higgins did not suffer by his declaration that he would indeed be running for the Dáil and the electorate would be represented by his substitute. Toiréasa Ferris had a good election though and there are some other newcomers like Tomás Sharkey in Louth – a cousin of Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness, incidentally – about whom more will be heard.
On a personal level, one has to feel a certain sympathy for FF’s Eoin Ryan who is a mild-mannered, civil sort of chap. But he didn’t make enough waves during the last five years and you need to get yourself in the public eye if you want to get elected, or re-elected, to Europe.
The Greens are in a pickle – pardon the pun. The summer recess really can’t come quick enough for them. Their TDs face the prospect of instant destruction if the general election is any time soon but, on the other hand, is it a sustainable position to remain in office when your party representatives on the ground can barely get elected dogcatcher?
FF are in the doldrums. Many are blaming Brian Cowen but, as a party insider pointed out to me, they cannot ditch the fellow now because then they would have a second leader who did not come through the democratic process. They could drop him closer to a general election perhaps although there is hardly an obvious alternative in Cabinet to catch the people’s imagination (maybe they should look on the backbenches where there is an array of bright young ambitious types). Speculation about Mary Coughlan losing her place as Tánaiste is widespread. The narrower stage of a Government Department suits her better than the merciless glare in which a deputy prime minister must operate.
Fine Gael and Labour are riding high. From their own viewpoint, they will have to send out a signal that they are not irrevocably at complete odds over banking policy, if they want to be a plausible alternative government. We have a reasonable idea as to FG’s policies if they got into government; Labour’s are rather more opaque.
The word from an FF contact is that the party is “taking no more nonsense” and that may be the reason Micheál Martin had such a robust go at Labour’s Joan Burton on Questions and Answers last night. Cowen was pretty combative in the Dáil today as well. There is a view that, up to now, FF has not been losing the argument, they’ve been throwing it away.
There were quite a few Far Left candidates elected in the “locals” which, along with the elevation of Joe Higgins, suggests there is a fresh market for this kind of politics. Indeed a chap I knew in the heady days of the late Sixties, who I thought had eased into a comfortable retirement, phoned me yesterday to ask, “Is it time we called the people out on the streets?”
And who would have thought a former FG leader and ex-taoiseach would de facto urge votes for a Fianna Fáil candidate, as happened with Garret FitzGerald and Eoin Ryan? I guess this means the Civil War is over at last.